The Clinton Stairs: Famous Historic Stairs Ticketed by the Village

The wooden stairs you see in the picture above were built illegally on September 1, the day after Hurricane Irene slammed into the Hamptons, and so this past Wednesday, the Town Trustees cited the owner of the stairs, Elie Hirschfeld, for having them built without a permit. If you want to see these offending stairs, you can drive down to Georgica Beach in East Hampton and there they are on the beach in front of the first mansion to the east.

The story of the offending stairs is this. The mansion was rented by Elie Hirschfeld to President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary for the period of August 22 to September 5, and so they came out here just in time to get smacked by Hurricane Irene on August 28, which blew away the old stairs that had been there, legally, before that time.

From the time the Clintons arrived, the original stairs had been guarded by Secret Service men standing on the lawn next to a black SUV to keep curiosity seekers from climbing up them. During the hurricane, of course, the Secret Service abandoned their post temporarily as the big waves thundered in and crashed over the revetment and onto the lawn. After the hurricane passed, the Secret Service returned to find the stairs gone, washed away. And so, they dutifully reported this fact to their higher ups, who quickly ordered a new set of stairs to be built so the former President and the current Secretary of State would not hurt their tootsies trying to climb over the boulders to get down to the beach.

The new stairs, designed exactly as the old ones—they looked at pictures—were in place before the next morning, answering the demands of “security and access” for the President and his lady. That’s how it is with both Presidents and former Presidents. This was done without anybody getting a permit.

Thus were the laws violated. These laws had been put in place by the Village of East Hampton, the East Hampton Town Trustees and the State Department of Environmental Conversation. Actually, the Town Trustees would not have gotten involved if the new stairs had not actually touched the beach but had ended floating a half-inch or so above it as they came down in front of the boulders. But they did not. They had come down and touched the beach.
My idea is that we get the East Hampton Historical Society involved in this situation. They should designate the stairs as historic, put a bronze plaque upon them and across them a velvet rope on both ends, so the trooping hordes of patriotic citizens wishing to touch or use the sacred stairs would be dissuaded from doing so. Thus, generations from now, people could come by, walking down the beach (the beach belongs to the general public) and have themselves photographed next to the very stairs that a President of the United States and a Secretary of State (his wife) used to get down to the beach. You can’t get more historic than that.

BACK TO Dan Rattiner's Stories